It has been a fruitful September for Ravindra Jadeja.
First, he made his presence felt in his comeback Test at the Oval with an all-round show and on Friday following an exile which lasted 442 days, the Saurashtra southpaw made a swashbuckling return to the Indian one-day international (ODI) side with a Man of the Match bowling performance against Bangladesh in Dubai.
Most importantly, amid all the hype surrounding wrist spinners in limited overs cricket, Jadeja showed with his relentless accuracy that finger spin is still not a lost art in white ball formats.
Interestingly, just 96 hours back, Jadeja was nowhere close to India’s limited overs’ scheme of things. He was playing in the Vijay Hazare Trophy in New Delhi. Then one day he received a phone call from one of the national selectors, who informed him to get ready for a possible call-up for the Asia Cup. Eventually, on Thursday night he was flown in to Dubai to join the team as Axar Patel’s replacement and within the next 24 hours, Jadeja has found redemption by ripping apart the Bangladesh middle-order with figures of 10-0-29-4.
Hasn’t it been a fascinating turnaround for the ‘rockstar’ of Indian cricket, who looked more mature as a cricketer than before? It seems like the break from the national team has allowed Jadeja to rediscover his game.
On Friday, after being picked in the XI, Jadeja was introduced in the attack in the last over of the batting powerplay. Shakib al Hasan went after him straightway — the first three deliveries of his comeback spell yielded 11 runs. Clearly, the Bangladeshi batsmen wanted to put the comeback man under pressure early.
Realising this gameplan, MS Dhoni asked skipper Rohit Sharma to post Shikhar Dhawan at backward square leg to lure the left-hander to play expansive sweeps over the in-field. The batsman actually accepted the invitation, but Jadeja was wily enough to push to ball a bit wider than the off-stump. This did the trick as Shakib failed to get proper elevation on his shot and was caught in the short-leg region, giving Jadeja a wicket and a shot of some much-needed confidence in his first over itself.
In this era of ‘hit-out-or-get-out’ cricket, wrist spinners are considered as wicket-taking options in the middle overs. Captains somehow are now reluctant to bowl finger spinners, despite knowing that they are more accurate. In the last Indian Premier League, playing under Dhoni in Chennai Super Kings, Jadeja only bowled 41 overs in 16 matches. And we all know bowling is his primary skill across formats. So, it was clear that Jadeja was losing his importance as bowler. Also, with the emergence of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, undoubtedly there was dark cloud looming over his international career.
However, it took Jadeja just four deliveries in his comeback match to show his utility at the highest level.
This was the first time when India played Jadeja, Kuldeep and Chahal in the same XI and the left-arm orthodox bowler clearly out-bowled the wrist spin duo. When Kuldeep and Chahal were trying a lot of variations to get the breakthrough, Jadeja kept it simple. On a slow track, he bowled an accurate stump-to-stump line and toyed with the patience of the Bangladeshi batsmen.
Mohammad Mithun was his second scalp, outfoxed by a 101km arm ball which kissed the Bangladeshi player’s pad before hitting the bat. A typical leg-before dismissal against Jadeja. Whereas Mushfiqur Rahman, who is known for his temperament as batsman, too got frustrated by his accuracy and got out trying to play a reverse-sweep.
In Jadeja’s final over, the wicket of Mosaddek Hossain was a result of his change of pace. Misjudging the speed of the ball, the batsman tried to play a slog sweep, but only managed to get a bottom edge to Dhoni.
Unfortunately, the much-awaited five-for hasn’t come, but with this performance Jadeja has more or less sealed a place in the XI for the rest of the tournament. With India building a core group for the World Cup, a string of significant performances here will give selectors a gentle reminder about his significance as an all-rounder in this Indian set-up.